Otago Daily Times

The Malt bar

- Oceania News · Radio New Zealand · New Zealand · University of Auckland · Auckland Region · University of Otago · Tauranga · Connecticut · Greenhithe · Otago

Mean­while, au­thor­i­ties have been closely trac­ing an­other po­ten­tial flare­up point: The Malt bar at Green­hithe.

That was where one of two work­mates spent two and a­half hours on Fri­day night — a time he would have been ‘‘right at the be­gin­ning’’ of his in­fec­tion, Dr Bloom­field said.

About 60 to 80 peo­ple were un­der­stood have been in the bar at the time — all of whom had been urged to get tested and self­iso­late.

Pub owner Kevin McVicar told Ra­dio New Zealand he was alerted to the sit­u­a­tion when a min­istry of­fi­cial came in on Wednes­day night as his phones had not been work­ing.

‘‘I was scep­ti­cal [at first] be­cause it hap­pened quite quickly and be­cause the news was al­ways re­port­ing that we’ve had no cases for a while.’’

Like Dr Bloom­field, health ex­perts have hailed the tech­ni­cian’s de­ci­sion to get tested as soon as he be­came symp­to­matic.

Univer­sity of Auck­land mi­cro­bi­ol­o­gist Siouxsie Wiles called him a ‘‘hero’’ who had fol­lowed the strict pre­cau­tions that came with a job con­sid­ered to be high­risk for Covid­19.

‘‘Im­por­tantly, he im­me­di­ately got tested and went into iso­la­tion. This will have lim­ited the time he was in con­tact with oth­ers in the com­mu­nity while in­fec­tious,’’ she said.

‘‘I’d like to thank the worker for get­ting tested so fast, as this will have lim­ited the risk of the virus spread­ing any fur­ther.’’

Univer­sity of Otago epi­demi­ol­o­gist Michael Baker said the case could have other­wise led to a much larger out­break.

But it also raised fresh and trou­bling ques­tions about New Zealand’s bor­der sys­tem.

An ob­vi­ous one was why the Sofrana Surville crew had only had to iso­late for a few days after fly­ing in — and none had been tested while here.

Dr Bloom­field said crews in tran­sit were not rou­tinely tested, and the min­istry was now re­view­ing mea­sures for ports and ship work­ers.

‘‘There’s clearly a gap there,’’ Univer­sity of Auck­land as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of pub­lic health Collin Tukuitonga told Ra­dio New Zealand.

‘‘Even if you con­tain th­ese peo­ple com­ing in from over­seas . . . ob­vi­ously there’s po­ten­tial in­ter­ac­tion with peo­ple ei­ther on the ship or on the wharf, that’s why I would’ve thought that test­ing would be manda­tory.’’ port work­ers is they must wear per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment — mask and gloves — when they’re on the ship.

‘‘As much as pos­si­ble they must pre­vent them­selves from get­ting closer than two me­tres for more than 15 min­utes with any of the crew.

‘‘Some­times that’s not pos­si­ble and they have to get closer than that, so we can’t elim­i­nate the risk.

‘‘But now we have rou­tine swab­bing for all port work­ers.

‘‘Also, any port worker turn­ing up to work is un­der clear in­struc­tions that should they have any symp­toms they’re to turn around and go home.’’

Prof Baker sug­gested a log­i­cal rea­son why the pub­lic had heard lit­tle about the risk from sea ports through­out the pan­demic — the worker was the first case defini­tively linked to one.

That was de­spite New Zealand’s ports re­ceiv­ing up to 100 vis­it­ing ves­sels each week, he said.

In­ci­den­tally, within a day of an­nounc­ing that case, the min­istry dis­closed an­other: a crew mem­ber aboard IVS Mer­lion, which re­cently ar­rived at the Port of Tau­ranga.

That crew mem­ber re­turned a weak pos­i­tive Covid­19 test, with a high CT value which in­di­cated an old in­fec­tion, un­con­nected to the port worker’s one.

‘‘Sea­ports have re­ceived less at­ten­tion than air­ports, but are ob­vi­ously area of vul­ner­a­bil­ity for New Zealand, as this case ap­pears to show,’’ Prof Baker said.

While there was a good chance the cur­rent in­fec­tion ar­rived with Sofrana Surville’s crew by air, Prof Baker said re­cent stud­ies had shown how the virus could en­ter coun­tries through ports.

The Mar­itime Union of New Zealand said the case high­lighted a need to limit the num­ber of in­ter­na­tional ports here and im­ple­ment do­mes­tic coastal ship­ping on a ‘‘hub and spoke’’ model.

do­mes­tic freight be­tween all of the coun­try’s ports had been raised by the union re­peat­edly.

‘‘Right now nearly all of our do­mes­tic sea freight is car­ried by in­ter­na­tional ships run­ning in­ter­na­tional crews who are not cov­ered by New Zealand law,’’ he said.

‘‘It means that ev­ery sin­gle one of our ports is an in­ter­na­tional bor­der point and it puts our mem­bers and the pub­lic at risk.’’

Mr Fleet­wood ar­gued there should be two ports on both is­lands that re­ceive

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